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Project Reframing Example: Executive Education Market Assessment For Ilu

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Project Background

The Industry Links Unit (ILU) was formed in 1997 as part of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), Cambridge University Engineering Department. Its primary objective was to carry out the commercial transactions of the IfM through the provision of industrial services and organising information events. It has built up a business in the provision of industrial services for large and small companies, and has a thriving events programme. Currently, as part of its next phase of development, it is in the process of developing a strategy for exploiting the provision of executive education services to industry. ILU has proposed several rationales for it to enter the executive education market. Firstly, it serves to disseminate the latest cutting-edge knowledge from the university into the industry. Secondly, it provides an opportunity for the institute to examine the application of its research and knowledge in real-life work environments. Thirdly is the financial consideration as the institute also gains monetary benefits in the process. Thus, it is both feasible and pertinent that the institute involves itself in this process and enters this market. In order to develop a feasible strategy for entering the market, the ILU needs to carry out an assessment of the current UK market, identifying the potential market size, which segments to target, how to position and price the services of the institute in comparison to its competitors, and how to effectively promote them.

Project Scope and Objectives

The primary objective of the project was to develop a quantitative view of the external executive education market for the ILU. The focal issues of the project include determining the total market size, which involved identifying potential companies who might require practical training in various core areas in a bid to improve their productivity and efficiency. Although the initial plan is not to offer a formal qualification, however, this may be reconsidered in case a company so desires. The next key feature of the project is segmenting the existing market for executive education in different ways, for example in sector-wise, regional or company size distributions, and identifying the most feasible market segment to target. Predominantly, the project team would be targeting the UK industrial sector; however, the potential market can be global. The team would also address the related issues of competitor positioning and their competitive pricing, where it endeavours to identify the leading players in this area and propose the most feasible way to enter the market in their presence. Finally, the team would examine the promotion techniques with which to market and advertise the programmes offered by the ILU in the executive education market.

Project Constraints

The project team consisted of two graduate engineering students (including myself) supervised by two industrial engineering and management experts. The experts provided the necessary direction to the student team, and encouraged their creativity in framing research methodology and data analysis. However, it is to be noted that as engineering students, the students did not have adequate exposure to business research or understanding of marketing paradigms prior to the commencement of the project. Furthermore, due to their �usually busy’ schedule, the experts could only devote limited time to the project and the student team had to explore multiple avenues of project assistance.

The project scope was kept limited to manufacturing/industrial companies within the UK. Furthermore, most of the companies were randomly selected from ILU contact lists, FTSE company profiles and the Institution of Engineering and Technology business partners.

The time allowed for project investigation and analysis was under three weeks, which implied that the project was carried out intensively focusing on discovering major patterns in industrial orientations.

It is important to note that contacting and eliciting responses from the industry on such short notice was a major challenge as most of the potential respondents were of the managerial standing.

Project Implementation and Outcome

The project team carried out a market research exercise to identify the underlying market traits, and gather further information with regards to industrial involvement in the executive education programmes, the types of programmes offered, target audience, associated benefits, average training budgets and preferred executive education providers. It was found that relatively fewer companies invested in external executive development programmes, and those who did focused on either general management or related technical issues. Skill development and performance improvement were regarded as the major benefits gained from these programmes. The project team suggested that ILU should focus more on providing �customised’ programmes rather than providing standard �open’ programmes. Furthermore, it was suggested that it should primarily focus on middle to senior managers as their target audience, and aspire to offer mainly short-term programmes. With the reputation and support of the University of Cambridge, the team felt that ILU should be able to differentiate itself from other education providers. Finally, the team suggested an extensive market research to be carried to identify the underlying patterns on a more extensive scale.

Project Reframing

The above outline for the project was sent to eight of my colleagues, who have expertise in different professional and academic domains. This was thought to add to the diversity of the feedback and also allow the project to be viewed from various different perspectives. The following core themes were taken into account while seeking insights from them:

From the company viewpoint: How can this project be further enhanced so as to make the provision of executive education by ILU more attractive for the production companies to undertake?

From the institute viewpoint: What, if any, creative approaches should ILU take to make this a memorable experience for the companies?

In essence, how can this project into a WOW project?

Following are a sampling of some of the useful comments received in light of these themes, which were intended to add further value to the project:

• The research/survey questionnaire

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